ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. (D.C. Bankruptcy No. 91-01212)
Before: Stapleton, Scirica and Nygaard, Circuit Judges
Four appellants, Eugene Landon; Hershel Chaddick;*fn1 Cyril Moyer; and Martin Campbell and their counsel, Allen E. Ertel, Esq., and John A. Felix, Esq., appeal from an order, which affirmed a bankruptcy court's order dismissing involuntary petitions filed against appellees Bruce Hunt and Carol Hunt, and imposing attorneys fees, costs, and punitive sanctions on appellants. We will affirm.
The district court jurisdiction is from 28 U.S.C. § 158(a). Our jurisdiction is from 28 U.S.C. § 158(d), and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 1292. Bankruptcy Rule 8013 controls our standard of review, and provides that "findings of fact, whether based on oral or documentary evidence, shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the Bankruptcy Court, to Judge the credibility of the witnesses." See In re: Jersey City Medical Center, 817 F.2d 1055, 1059 (3d Cir. 1987). Our standard of review is plenary over any Conclusions of law by the bankruptcy or district courts. Id.
With the exception of Chaddick's claim, this entire affair stems from the purchase appraisal and sale of an antique desk. Appellants Moyer and Campbell had offered a Chippendale secretary desk for sale. Mr. Hunt decided to purchase the desk for his wife and paid Moyer and Campbell $14,500.00 for the desk.
Hunt then contacted appellant Landon to appraise the desk. Landon determined the desk to be an American piece, and opined that the desk could be sold for $1,000,000.00. Mrs. Hunt contacted Christie, Manson and Woods International Inc. (Christies) to auction the desk.
Landon and Mr. Hunt subsequently disagreed as to the amount of any commission Landon would receive from the sale of the desk. After negotiation, they agreed that Landon would receive 20% of the desk's sale price. It was sold for $220,000.00.
After the sale, Moyer and Campbell asserted an ownership interest in the desk. Moyer and Campbell advised Christies of their claim on October 29, 1987. In response, Mrs. Hunt filed a declaratory action in the Court of Pleas for the Eighth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina asking that she be declared the owner of the desk. Attorney Ertel represented Campbell and Moyer at this trial.
Meanwhile, appellant Landon, again represented by Attorney Ertel, filed suit against the Hunts, Christies, and others in the Lycoming County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. He alleged a 20% ownership interest in the desk entitling him to $44,000.00 of the proceeds. The Hunts denied that Landon owned any part of the desk, but admitted owing him a commission. Christies removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and deposited the $220,000.00 sale proceeds with the district court. Campbell and Moyer, still represented by Attorney Ertel, joined this action alleging their 40% ownership interest.
On May 25, 1989, a South Carolina jury rejected Campbell and Moyer's claims and declared Carol J. Hunt to be the owner of the desk. On November 8, 1989, the court entered judgment in favor of the Hunts on the claims of both Campbell and Moyer. Thereafter,
The sole issues remaining for trial were Landon's claim concerning his alleged entitlement to a commission on the sale of the secretary and the Hunts' ...